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Furniture dealer Sophie on swapping a career in fashion for antiques.

Meet Sophie, one half of an East London couple passionate about collecting antique furniture. Founders of Stowaway London, we wanted to hear more about what they do, their own treasured pieces and what they’re loving in London.

How did you end up doing what you do?

Sam has been doing this since he left school at eighteen when he joined his Dad buying and selling antiques. Sam and I started Stowaway London about four years ago now, at the time I wanted to leave the fashion world and the antique lifestyle was very appealing.

What inspired the leap from fashion to furniture?stow

I left fashion and started Stowaway London because I really wanted my own business and to be my own boss. Fashion had lost its fun and creativity for me and furniture – which I have always loved – was new and exciting. Fashion, furniture, design and art all encompass each other and when you have an eye, you have an eye for it all I think. It was great timing as I wanted a new career… Sam came along and said, ‘I sell antiques. Want to make a brand/business?’ and I just jumped.

Favourite piece you’ve ever sourced?

I loved finding a pair of Morris & Co Sussex chairs as they were hidden and tucked away. Also the timing was great as we had just been to his museum in Walthamstow the weekend before, so it all felt very meant to be. Sam’s piece is a 1960’s foosball table that came in just before the World Cup so the games at our house were made even more fun!

Describe your own home in three words.

Eclectic, characterful, cosy.

coffeeYou have friends visiting. Where do you take them?

The Wallace Collection… hands down the best museum in London. Then back to our neck of the woods with a pint in the Crooked Billet and then food at My Neighbours The Dumplings.

Do you have a piece which goes with you wherever you move?

Yeah Sam… and then a Victorian elm stool which belonged to his grandmother which he grew up sitting on.   

What do you love about working with antique furniture?

Sam likes working with things that are old and have character. For me it is the same but with the addition that the quality of the furniture is so much better and it is environmentally friendly.  

Any great tales behind the pieces you collect?

Last year we brought a beautiful desk and when cleaning it Sam found a folder that had slipped behind the drawers. It contained a note which said that the desk belonged to and had been designed by G. C Grindley, who was a well known psychologist. It was exciting to find that and then research the guy. The provenance made a great desk even more special.  

If your home was ablaze, what would you run back to save?

Sam would most certainly have my arms full with the stool, plus many swords and knives (he collects antique weapons) and a few other antique trinket boxes he’s had for a long time. I would grab my jewellery box which has my treasured bits in including my great grandmother’s hat pin.

Dream dinner party guests?

Our grandparents.globe

Go to winter beverage?

Early mornings always require coffee.

Velvet sofa or leather sofa?

Leather sofa.

Which famous person’s home would you love to sneak peek into?

Aino and Alvar Aalto, they are a bit of a designer power couple.

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The Return of Folk to Interior Design

 

For a while now, the central focus of interior inspiration has fallen primarily within the realm of Mid Century and Postmodern design. Whilst we continue to appreciate the merits of this aesthetic, we believe it shouldn’t hinder the discovery of other rich and characterful design genres. The annals of design history are coloured not just by formal design movements but also, as Vinterior seller Kitty Walsh puts it, by the popular culture of the past: the things which ordinary people themselves liked to make and do. This is what we call ‘folk’ and an immensely rich area of design which deserves to be placed back under the limelight.

Vinterior is immensely proud of our collaboration with many of the leading vintage and antique furniture specialists in the UK and beyond. After all, our mission is to seek out the remarkable and to shine the spotlight on people, places and pieces with real character, real soul and real stories. Behind the exceptional pieces on Vinterior stand some equally brilliant and highly knowledgeable collectors, who bring life to the stories behind the furniture you buy.

This week, I’m speaking to folk expert Kitty Walsh. As the founder of London gallery and collection Modern Folk, Kitty is bringing fresh attention to folk design, a genre richly woven with vibrant colours, patterns and the echo of many lives lived. We are inspired by the joyful union of colour and print which adorns so many of the pieces in the Modern Folk collection and the instant character which they lend to a space.

But what actually is folk design?

As Kitty explains, ‘Folk culture simply means the popular culture of the past, the things ordinary people liked to sing, eat, drink, make, and do. Folk art is the material part of this culture – from the clothes people wore, to the homes that they lived in, and the tools that they used to work. Just as favourite recipes and songs were passed down from century to century, so were the methods of making particular types of clothing or objects. As each generation added to the knowledge of their forefathers, rich cultural traditions gradually emerged.’

Kitty travels across vast regions of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia in pursuit of finding folk treasures. Most recently she travelled to Transylvania, unearthing rare finds at Negreni, an ancient Romani market in the Carpathian mountains. I asked Kitty about the origins of her interest in folk and what makes it stand out from other vintage genres.

How did you become passionate about collecting the folk genre?

I’ve always been drawn to folk art – I began collecting Norwegian knitwear and folk slippers as a teenager and I used to make piñatas for extra pocket money. Then when I was studying History of Art at Cambridge I found a book on Hungarian folk art in a charity shop and was really hooked.

Why folk in particular?

With the folk genre you get to see the crafts person’s process – it’s great to see how people all over the world have responded to a particular design problem. Plus, I’m a bit of a maximalist so I love the patterns and colour!

What makes folk stand out from other vintage genres?

The stories attached to the pieces – you get such a strong sense of their history. These are pieces from a much simpler time – people had far fewer items in their home and most of them would have been made by people in their immediate community. This furniture marked important moments, when they got married or had their first child, it’s really a record of their lives.

Do you have any interesting stories behind the pieces currently in your collection?

A great example is our beautiful painted wedding chest, dated June 1891. It would have been used to carry the bride’s – Kata’s – possessions to her new home. But you get the same sense of history with the more minimal pieces, like a so-called bachelor’s table covered with knife marks.

Which is your favourite piece and why?

It has to be the ‘fancy country’ wardrobe – it’s so full of life! It was made in Transylvania in the mid twentieth century and is covered with flowers, fruits and birds. I’d love to know if the painter was thinking of William Morris’ strawberry thief when he painted the cheeky birds.

Kitty’s Modern Folk collection is bursting with folk curiosities, from intricately patterned chairs to simple carved wooden chests and vibrant glass paintings. I love the unique imperfections found in vintage and antique furniture for their ability to spark conversation and how they speak of crafts loved, lives lived and memories lost. What I find particularly special about folk furniture is that each piece is created with such purpose and to provide a sense of place. We can keep these exceptional pieces of furniture alive by bringing them into our homes so that our own unique family stories become woven around them.

View the Modern Folk collection here.

 

Portrait of Kitty taken from Wharf Magazine.

 

 

A Danish-Inspired Getaway on Shelter Island

We fell hard for this getaway that Lisa Jones, a London-born fashion buyer redeveloped with her husband on New York’s remote Shelter Island. What emerged (after purchasing the home in it’s original seventies condition) was a bright, Danish-inspired lakefront home that showcases Lisa’s natural curator eye with many vintage pieces sourced online. Keen to stick to a minimalist, Scandinavian palette, we love how her choice of pieces appear timeless against fabric choices of pink, dark green and hints of yellow. Fashionable Moroccan rugs bring a cosy texture to each room, while a vintage Persian rug punctuates the white-washed oak kitchen floor. Design classics such as the vintage Børge Mogensen daybed and contemporary Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen dining set, work together seamlessly. We can only imagine that this spacious weekend retreat will continue to look timeless for many years to come.

Photography by Jonathan Hokklo.

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Where Retro and Modern Collide: Vintage Pieces in a Contemporary Home

Amy Bartlam Photography  Amy Bartlam Photography  Amy Bartlam Photography
Image source: Veneer Designs

Vintage is the new modern, or at least that’s how interior design trends stand right now. Blame it on the growing popularity of classic décor inspired by Great Gatsby, The Great Budapest Hotel, or Amélie, but retro glam is here to stay. Still, vintage finds should be carefully incorporated into a contemporary home to avoid a haphazardly put-together impression. However chic mix-and-match décors may be, there are a few principles you should bear in mind when enriching your home with finds belonging to different design eras. Here are five home styling tricks professional designers follow when introducing vintage elements into a modern home setting.

1. Contrasts for Vintage Eclecticism

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Photography by Janne Olander for Stadshem

Vintage elements in bold hues will infuse a minimalist home with a sense of visual opulence and eclecticism. As a general rule, most successful old-meets-new décor blends rely on the power of contrasts for aesthetic interest, which is why you should pay attention to the colors of vintage furnishings you’re introducing into your home. An antique statement piece in a bold tone will feature as a focal point in a color-coordinated room, and if you’re after superior effects, you can also draw on contrasts in terms of texture and shape when incorporating retro elements in your home.

2. Mix ‘n’ Match for Boho Aesthetics

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Image source: New Darlings

Using furniture pieces belonging to different periods of design history will create a boho chic backdrop in your nest. If you’re a firm believer in visual eclecticism, you can try to blend several styles in your living area rather than using just a few vintage pieces as accents. The mix-and-match formula will help create a décor that exudes personality, depth, and interest, allowing the vintage pieces to blend in neatly rather than commanding attention or overwhelming the rest of the décor. For eclectic traveler home aesthetics, you can round off the bohemian-style décor with ornaments and mementoes salvaged on your travels.

3. A Sophisticated Antique Statement

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Image sources: Hannah in the House and Skona Hem

However visually engaging, eclectic style is not everyone’s top favorite, but it doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a no-frills modern décor. A single vintage statement piece of furniture will be enough to add character and aesthetic value to your living area, but you should select it with care to prevent a brash décor impression. For instance, an antique leather sofa with a foot stool can double as the living room centerpiece, whereas a bold Victorian-esque wardrobe perched by glass-paneled aluminium sliding doors will add depth and contrast to a modern open-plan living area.

4. Thinking outside the Vintage Box

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Image source: Cup of Jo

When using vintage finds as décor accents, you don’t necessarily have to stick to conventions. A daring blend of retro and modern pieces such as a vintage desk topped by a modern ergonomic chair will unleash aesthetic dynamicity and add the element of visual surprise to the home office or living room. On that note, a mid-century chest of drawers will look at home as the TV console in a nature-inspired living room, while a retro bureau can be used as the home bar for a sense of playfulness and creativity.

5. Where Retro and Country Collide

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Image source: Decoist

Most vintage pieces come in solid wood with a matte paint coat, but if you wish to liven up the home atmosphere with a dose of rustic charm, you can overhaul antique pieces following in the country style footsteps. Wire-brushed wood cabinetry or tables with bold grain will seamlessly blend into the modern décor structured around pastel colours, stone and/or timber flooring, and organic textiles. For bonus aesthetic points, you can dress contemporary laminate floors with an antique rug, and round off the vintage décor with a few country-inspired extras such as a rustic coat hanger, decorative signboards, baskets, and a distressed table or floor lamp.

Introducing antique pieces into a contemporary-style living area will increase the aesthetic value of your home and infuse it with character and timeless elegance. There’s a host of ways in which you can pull off the old-meets-new décor, so feel free to experiment with different approaches – just don’t let your modern-looking living area go without retro touches.

Zoe Clark


Shop at Vinterior, Britain’s greatest selection of vintage, mid century, antique and design furniture & home decor. Shop from the best independent furniture boutiques on one platform.

Author bio:

Zoe Clark is a journalist, freelance stylist and blogger. She is a visual storyteller and aesthetician by heart who often writes about decorating and DIY ideas. She loves sparking creativity in people and giving them ideas for their own spaces. You can find her blogging at Smooth Decorator.

 

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